Ten Things I’ve Learned by Teaching (… a lot).

I recently accepted a faculty position. This is a thrill and a dream come true… an office, insurance(!), a wonderful program, energetic students, course material I love… it’s a great gig and an amazing privilege.

However, like most academic positions, there are a few strings attached. First, the teaching load is 4|4, meaning I teach the same class four times in the Fall and again, four times in the Spring. No TAs, graders, or team. It’s a lot, and surprisingly not the minimum as I know other departments have 5|5 and 6|6 teaching loads. Secondly, my position is not tenure track; it’s a one year contract. This means I started applying for positions (a full time job in itself) in August when the “season” began. The position offers a taste of what an academic life would be.

I also realize this is an opportunity to get a head start on creating sustainable classroom habits. I have given careful attention to how teaching one course is different than teaching four. Below are a few of the lessons I’ve learned. I am sharing with the hopes they’ll help you, whether you are teaching one class or ten.

1. CARE. “Ms. Laney, you care about us?”
It was a Friday morning after a particularly “celebratory” Thursday night downtown. I live close enough to be kept awake by the music and shouts of Fraternity houses (and had finally fallen asleep despite the loud playlists and laughter… around 3 am). I was legitimately concerned. There are always screams and police lights, not to mention the groups of dressed up youth running across Main Street at all hours of the night. I had shared with the students that they shouldn’t drive (after drinking). “Even if you are walking” I stressed, “walk in groups and take care of one another… it’s dangerous out there”. The class seemed to be genuinely surprised that I was concerned about what was happening on a Thursday night. Granted, this is outside the scope of the classroom, however, the ability to assess power, recognize intersectionality, and create a community eager to discuss “tough” subjects of race, gender, poverty, and privilege within the classroom requires that I engage with the whole student. And I do care. We create a community in the classroom. I am honest about caring. This is a feminist, nontraditional practice. By being open– I care about place, power, knowledge and yes, you– the classroom typically opens up. This doesn’t mean students automatically care, but it is one way of fighting back against the banking system of education readily employed by many.
2. LISTEN. We know students are listening largely by assessing whether they have understood course material. How do we “prove” we are listening as instructors? By listening to students, we are able to recognize and hear their needs, questions, and enthusiasm. How do we listen to students? If you are not already, having consistent anonymous exchanges with students is one way to begin this process. I ask students to fill out an index card with something they enjoy, something they don’t understand, and something they’d like to change about the course. The next step is crucial… read and respond! Because they are anonymous, this means the response must be an action. Perhaps students need notes, want less course work, or love your lectures. Let students know you read them and are working to make the classroom the best space possible for all involved.
3. PREP, PREP, PREP. I do not cook. Anyone who knows me knows I love to eat (Indian, Thai, chocolate chip cookies…), but the idea of preparing meals, enjoying them and then CLEANING UP afterwards is anxiety inducing to the point of losing my appetite. Like cooking, the classroom requires prep (and clean up if you want to keep the metaphor going). Because I am teaching the same class but the schedule requires assignments and discussion be broken up in different ways (some 2 days per week, some 3), Course prep is CRUCIAL. Keeping a running journal of topics we’ve covered, how far along we went in the lecture, and activities completed has helped. Preparing an extra slide or activity (just in case!) is always a great idea. Being prepared doesn’t mean (to me) having a 90 minute lecture printed with accompanying slides. Rather it means being prepared to learn what ever it is we set out to learn that day and figure out what it means within the context of our various fields and futures. Honestly, course prep is a thousand times more enjoyable than meal prep.
4. UP CYCLE. Often I feel as if I am “cheating” by revisiting texts and lectures. Learning to make life easier on myself and students has been key in juggling this intense cycle. It is totally OKAY to use the same project two semesters in a row– especially if you “fix” or upgrade the parts that didn’t work just right!
5. USE THE TOOLS. Canvas, Scholar, Blackboard, Google (everything), Apps, e-portfolios, special workshops and initiatives… use them and see what works for you! No need to reinvent the wheel! I realized –this semester– that Canvas will keep attendance. Long gone are the days of wrinkled graph paper in the bottom of my bag! If you haven’t reached out to university resources (the library, TLOS, museums, other GTAs or faculty) do so now!
6. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? This question can haunt the GTA at the end of the day. There are grant proposals to write, dissertations to defend, children to raise, parents to visit, dogs to walk… all on a meager income. Sometimes, taking a long walk and remembering that you are invested in your field, you know your field, and you have knowledge to share with others about your field helps. It doesn’t “fix” the physical hardships but know that you are good at what you do. Once you’ve grasped that the sky isn’t falling and you are doing a good job, let a fellow GTA know they’re doing okay, too. We are all in this together, after all.
7. LISTEN, AGAIN. Honestly, this cannot be over stressed or over utilized.
8. BE HONEST. I am sure this is going to haunt me on SPOT evals, but being honest (“no, I do not remember your name,sorry” or “nope I do not know the answer to that obscure question…”) and being honest about why I don’t know some things can take some of the pressure to know EVERYTHING off (“y’all, this is the 4th time Ive given this lecture” or “folks, that is outside my area of expertise, but lets do some searching and see what we can find”).
9. SO WHAT? Often, I feel bombarded with the hostile environment students are entering. The need to cover “all the things” hits hard. At moments like this it is very helpful to stop and return to the syllabus and course expectations. Revisit what this class is supposed to cover. Then create a check sheet for the items in the unit. Once I am on track and confident we are covering the crucial material I THEN ask “so what” and tackle big questions. This week those big questions are: “Why is the proclamation of 1763 important”? “What do we learn about racial violence from land disputes in the 1700s”? “What does the fiddle tell us about capitalism”?
10. TAKE CARE. For me, “burning out” happens when I cannot see a plan. I am a strategist. I do best when a line of due dates are in front of me arranged on color coded calendars with to-do lists for each one. Focusing on one sentence or one idea without broadening and expanding implications is debilitating. This has been one of the most horrible setbacks regarding my dissertation (but that’s another post). For me, taking care has is planning. Putting pressure on myself to complete things when others don’t. Self care is also the occasional new lipstick or grabbing a latte before office hours. Self care is not spending more than seven seconds to torture myself over the fact my lecture on social constructs was waaaay over everyone’s head. Self care is being honest and realizing I only have a year here, but the entire course of one’s life can change in a semester.

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“How do I make an A?” Conversations on Assessment


In our first “Brown Bag” conversation between GrATE members on October 5th, we discussed assessment at large. I was thrilled to discuss the ways in which we evaluate, judge, and measure success and growth. Non-traditional, holistic and personalized assessment made a huge impact on me as an undergraduate but as an instructor it is difficult to oversee and enforce, espically in large classrooms.

We talked about a lot of the frustrations we have as educators. How do grades work if they’re not based on a test? How can I be equitable? What is a fair assessment? Points? What’s a point? Collectively we have more questions than answers but talking with fellow GTAs from various fields I learned about many options I hadn’t considered regarding assessment.

What I gleamed from the conversation was that how we assess students largely depends on why we assess students. Further, the ability to have a great deal of autonomy over assessment is a gift to graduate teaching assistants. It can be daunting, but in creating our own exams we are able to shift conversations from a tone of “banking education” (to use the concepts of Paulo Freire) to a culture of curiosity. This can radically shift a classroom.

Chris Green, a professor at Berea College, gave me advice regarding assessment that truly changed my approach in the classroom. He suggested that we can only assess what we have taught. I am lucky — this works for me largely as I teach lower level undergraduate courses where prior knowledge is not assumed, but I am aware that many upper level courses require foundational knowledge. What this could possibly shift for all instructors is the role of the instructor. What are we preparing students to do What skills are we practicing in order to assess? We do not practice memorization in my course, so rather than offer multiple choice exams I assess the ability to think critically in the classroom.

Each of the Academy members brought a different viewpoint on evaluating knowledge to the conversation. Factors which impact our methods of assessment across the board included number of students, what we are seeking to evaluate, and what particular skills we looking for. Another factor which highly influences assessment concerns the resources we use to evaluate student growth. Educational tools such as canvas allow for quick assessments of interpretation and retention. Blogs and scaffolded projects allow for a longer assessment of growth. I personally like to use a mix of these as well as a self assessment report where students reflect on their own learning process.

This learning outcome grid is very helpful in visualizing how and why certain assessment tools are used. http://tll.mit.edu/sites/default/files/guidelines/a-e-tools-methods-of-measuring-learning-outcomes-grid-2.pdf

I was also introduced to the idea of personalized assessment. Here is a bit more on that:

Thank you to everyone who joined our conversation– I hope you can join us next time!


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On Being Faculty

According to Merriam-Webster, the term “faculty” is best understood as: ability, power, as innate or acquired ability to act or do, an inherent capability, power, or function (the faculty of hearing), natural aptitude (has a faculty for saying the right things). (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faculty)

In short it’s the function of parts that contribute to a whole and is often, outside of academia used as a plural term. In describing what I feel to be the responsibility and sentiments of a future faculty member, I inherently cling to this pluralism, or being part of something much larger, and through that opportunity understand myself privileged with types of abilities I may not have on my own. I  take seriously the “ability to act or do” as well as the power of the position.

While living in western North Carolina I had a wonderful banjo teacher and friend, Annie Fain Liden.  She not only taught me a few banjo tunes, but her life choices as an artist and our conversations about one’s “calling” were and continue to be deeply influential in my life. One day she offered me the wonderful insight that she did what made her happy and the rest followed. The life she choose as an artist certainly had obstacles, but it was a choice to continue what fulfilled her that made the sacrifices worth it. I find working towards the greater good through the classroom, seeking knowledge, and the learning process to be what brings me that fulfillment (of course, banjos in the classroom help!).  Working for the betterment of the Appalachian region, working for more just and equitable environments and ecologies; this is fulfilling to me. By perusing these things I have been led into higher education and the position of a future professoriate, or faculty member. This is not a weight I carry lightly.
Annie Fain’s advice is starkly different from what I hear in professional development courses where I am asked, does it go on your curriculum vita? Are you producing work? The encouragement to produce, the institutional need to constantly rate higher and higher, collide with the questions that got me here; a true desire to learn and an enjoyment in the process. Being a faculty member is balancing the urging to do nothing but produce “good work” and remember the movement and functions of the larger space of being one has been called into. I am learning that the dichotomical relationship of these worlds, knowing and being surveyed, learning and being rated, growing and producing according to a set standard or expectation—are forever intertwined. This is where I feel the role of “faculty” is so complex and important.

In thinking about how to balance one’s power, ability to act or do, and institutional needs, I feel thare are eight constant, fluid, fluctuating responsibilities endowed to all faculty members. Upholding and performing these acts take courage and curiosity:

1. To serve. I believe faculty members must serve on many levels; the institution, the discipline, students, international, local, and imagined communities, the subject, readers, and the acts, organizations and movements that are reflected and impacted by their institution, institutional position and area(s) of research.
2. To learn. Faculty members must learn and be led by a vigorous curiosity. If faculty members are devoted to learning, their teaching will be radically impacted as will their students and others who learn from them.
3. To seek. Faculty members must seek out moment to be faculty members—moments of learning and teaching, serving and connecting must be sought out.
4. To guide. Faculty members, as part of a larger group, must guide others when able to do so—experiences and situated knowledge/s should be used. I have been most impacted by honest guidance done in good conscious by faculty members.
5. To produce. The production of knowledge, research, and confident, questioning students is the responsibility of the type of faculty member I hope to be. Understanding that not all faculty members teach, producing spaces for learning and new knowledge as well as working for the institute at large is a responsibility of a productive faculty.
6. To network, connect and serve as a liaison between people, ideas, opportunities and knowledge when needed.
7. To reflect. Reflect on one’s integrity, moral compass and intentions, reflect on the larger group one is serving and have the courage to take action if needed. This is perhaps the most difficult and dangerous responsibility of faculty members and I applaud the legacy that has given me the courage to see the possibilities when truth is spoken to power. Helen Lewis, Jeff Mann, Kai Erikson, Marc Edwards, Jen Hofer, and many others are taking this responsibility seriously. We (the future faculty) are deeply grateful and made more courageous because of their work.

To me, being a faculty means doing these actions while remaining true to the intentions that got you this far. Being is a conscious act—to be faculty is to choose to pursue this calling and be a part of something much larger than oneself. Of course, this isn’t required, but I believe the calling is much less fulfilled for those who do not recognize their role and embrace the act of being a faculty member.

Jordan Laney, May 1, 2015


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Time and Space and Eggs

This comic was fascinating last read in our workshop. The “make” to share how time manifests in my world reveals my “old media” tendencies and dedications.

From the images I hope to reveal that time and space collide in my world– time becomes the ticking of a timer (often I set two at once…) and time becomes as actual object, similar to the way text can be understood to be an object. Time occupies space. I try to manage time in the most productive ways possible… the end result is “rope-like” as alluded to in McCloud. In doing this post I found that not only do I study musics impact, but I am surrounded and sensitive to sound… the cadence of the keyboard and the ticking of “the egg” are crucial to my understanding of time. Sound helps me to better measure the spaces I am in and feel as if I have some control over the movement of time.




These lists are what I try to “time”and the linear way I write them reminded me of the cartoons and their manipulation of space and time.

In music, Accutron watches are popular among bluegrass musicians. They are perfect… able to maintain and sustain a perfect temporal measure, one that performers can trust. Through this materiality one can make the conceptual leap that time becomes a member of the band, an agent in the process. This can be applied to the worlds we occupy and the spaces we create with our research.

nmss4When I think of our relationship to time in a larger context, I think of the 1987 film that changed my views on labor perhaps more so than time… if you haven’t seen it, here’s The Price of Life:

thank you for a wonderful semester!


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The Future of Higher Education

PFP: Thoughts on the future of Higher Education.

Most of the class readings this week discussed how faculty have changed rather than how institutions have evolved in recent years.

What’s different today? Just a few major factors: knowledge production and dissemination (there are new methods, technologies, and venues for publication); resources (institutional, state, and system-wide budget cuts); increased competition for grant funding and different funding sources; longer lead times for getting published (in top-tier journals in many disciplines and by university presses); increased pressures for transparency and accountability; and a ratcheting up of expectations for all faculty, including teaching, research, service, and, at some institutions, outreach. On the personal side, there is increasingly a 24/7 expectation for faculty work and accessibility to students. Furthermore, the new norm for faculty with partners is the dual-career household; few faculty members have a spouse or partner who stays at home to raise children. (“A New Generation of Faculty: Similar Core Values in a Different World” By Cathy A. Trower)

Mark Taylor writes; “GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).” For Mark Taylor’s entire op-ed piece, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/opinion/27taylor.html?_r=1&
Taylor writes that the way to combat this shifting and hostile landscape is a six step formula:

1. Restructure the curriculum, beginning with graduate programs and proceeding as quickly as possible to undergraduate programs. The division-of-labor model of separate departments is obsolete and must be replaced with a curriculum structured like a web or complex adaptive network. Responsible teaching and scholarship must become cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural.

I agree with Taylor. Here’s more in this direction: http://podnetwork.org/content/uploads/V2-N3-MacGregor.pdf


2. Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs. These constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed. It is possible to imagine a broad range of topics around which such zones of inquiry could be organized: Mind, Body, Law, Information, Networks, Language, Space, Time, Media, Money, Life and Water.

I am hesitant to jump on board here,simply because of the position such restructuring could place faculty in.

3. Increase collaboration among institutions. All institutions do not need to do all things and technology makes it possible for schools to form partnerships to share students and faculty. Institutions will be able to expand while contracting. Let one college have a strong department in French, for example, and the other a strong department in German; through teleconferencing and the Internet both subjects can be taught at both places with half the staff. With these tools, I have already team-taught semester-long seminars in real time at the Universities of Helsinki and Melbourne.

Yes! And beyond institutions! Here are a few examples:
The Appalachian Studies Association
Highlander Research and Education Center

4. Transform the traditional dissertation. In the arts and humanities, where looming cutbacks will be most devastating, there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text.

Yes… and. If the process of a dissertation is simply to make a book for which there is a market, sure, change the traditional dissertation. However there is a traditional+ stance where the dissertation is a process, an act of learning in itself. Perhaps we should appreciate the process more than the product in this case.

5. Expand the range of professional options for graduate students. Most graduate students will never hold the kind of job for which they are being trained.

This suggests a more substantial shift which I am interested in; valuing other knowledge/s outside academe.


Students APS/RLCL 1709 on a class trip.

6. Impose mandatory retirement and abolish tenure. Initially intended to protect academic freedom, tenure has resulted in institutions with little turnover and professors impervious to change…

The system—creating precarious, underpaid, overworked adjuncts with little to no time to work on their own research—would be irresponsible and unjust to act this way… or at least that is how I understand the implications of this point.


I recently had this conversation with a faculty member who expressed experiencing value in “required” courses. This was interesting to me… while I understand the sentiment “you need to do something you don’t want to do… because that’s life” I was also surprised. I would like to think that ALL topics could be covered and would be covered even if the educational situation was collaborative, self-directed and interdisciplinary. For instance, if you are interested in building a space shuttle… your also going to have to learn to read and write clear directions. Perhaps you would miss out on a class about post-modern poetry, but the skills would still be required.

I think there needs to be a radical new understanding of education versus certification, between learning and testing. Higher education needs more empirical, place-based projects and student led independent initiatives. I also believe we are taking steps to get there. If radical reform is possible… this is the place for it to happen.


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unschool, deschool, reschool…

[sharing with both my NMSS group and with Future Professoriate classmates who may find it interesting.]

April 23, 2015

Christiansburg, VA

Deschooling isn’t, in my interpretation a dismissal of the process we have come to love and trust, but rather a hope in something else– a process that reflects different desires which drive a search for knowledge. Something about Illich’s desires were unclear to me with this reading, and I felt a graveling, neoliberal “where will this get you” tone throughout his work .

The word “deschooling” brought back specific memories. I remember visiting a coffee shop during a few undergrad semesters in Winston Salem. Krankies has decent coffee and most importantly a great art gallery and music venue which brought together eclectic, artistic folks on a nightly basis.


I would spend long afternoons there, reading the assigned material for my undergraduate classes in nonprofit management, music history and accounting unsure of why, knowing I was suppose to consume it in order to “be prepared” for class the next day. One evening a young musician sat down beside me with a stack of science and economic magazines (these were usually available in piles at the coffee shop). He devoured them. We talked about them. He wanted to read my text books. He was not in school and wanted to borrow my textbooks to see what I was learning. We talked about foreign policy and pollution, languages and the economization of aesthetics.  I was intrigued and it took literally leaving the formal education system for me to find a structure that wielded this passion in myself; a passion to learn, to devour information because I desired it, because I was curious. This is what came to mind with the title of this week’s readings… these memories and the formative plans for a “free school” in Winston Salem which never came to full fruition when I read the title of this week’s assignment in the New Media Seminar.


Our “make” this week is to “identify a real-life example of one of Illich’s four “approaches” (in the subsection “Four Networks”) that has made a difference in your life–teaching you something new, for example. What did you learn? Could you have learned it in a traditional classroom environment? Which would you have preferred?”

Illich offers the following four options:

Educational resources are usually labeled according to educators’ curricular goals. I propose to do the contrary, to label four different approaches which enable the student to gain access to any educational resource which may help him to define and achieve his own goals:
1. Reference Services to Educational Objects-which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning. Some of these things can be reserved for this purpose, stored in libraries, rental agencies, laboratories, and showrooms like museums and theaters; others can be in daily use in factories, airports, or on farms, but made available to students as apprentices or on off hours.
2. Skill Exchanges--which permit persons to list their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve as models for others who want to learn these skills, and the addresses at which they can be reached.
3. Peer-Matching–a communications network which permits persons to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.
4. Reference Services to Educators-at-Large–who can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self-descriptions of professionals, paraprofessionals, and free-lancers, along with conditions of access to their services. Such educators, as we will see, could be chosen by polling or consulting their former clients.

A beautiful embodiment of these four (perhaps all in one place) was the “free library” I would frequent in Asheville, NC. I doubt it’s still there, it was falling apart 5 years ago, but “tiny free libraries” are popping up all over the place back home:



Ironically, it was at this free library that I began to find literarure about Black Mountain College– what I truly think serves as a structure for a different type of learning.
Illich’s list isn’t at all what I think of as “deschooling” or “unschooling.” Illich’s notions seem so regimented, organized, portioned into categories of networks of options… so rigid. When I imagine the type of learning free from these organizational constraints I do not think of skill exchanges, reference services or peer-matching… I think of the radical possibilities of spaces devoted to learning. Like Illich, I do not always think of the traditional schooling system. I think, specifically, of Black Mountain College and the mythic space of opportunities and hope that it occupies in my imagination. I think of people devouring magazines without the threat of a test.
For more on Black Mountain College: https://www.fandor.com/films/fully_awake

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Open Source Possibilities

Open Access journals are a common topic among graduate student discussions as well as a concern and interest among higher education administrators. Here at Virginia Tech I have been given the wonderful opportunity to explore the world of open access from a very privileged position: as a co-editor elect of SPECTRA: the Social Political Ethical and Cultural Theory Archives.

Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Theory Archives (SPECTRA) is a student-led online scholarly journal established as part of the ASPECT (Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought) program at Virginia Tech. The journal features work of an interdisciplinary nature and is designed to provide an academic forum for students to showcase research, explore controversial topics, and take intellectual risks. SPECTRA welcomes submissions for publication by way of scholarly refereed articles, book reviews, essays, interviews and other works that operate within a problem-centered, theory-driven framework. (www.spectrajournal.org)

We use OJS, which is part of PKP to organize the journal. Before this year it ran through a common blog; wordpress. While there isn’t a statement “for” or “against” open access, the journals being is statement to a belief in changing the way we think about “publishing” and access to readership. As for the journal’s organization, the graphic below is incredibly helpful to those new to this process.

edprocesslarge open source(http://spectrajournal.org/about/aboutThisPublishingSystem)

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A graffiti titled “Escapism” made by the British, guerrilla, graffiti artist Banksy is seen on Israel’s highly controversial West Bank barrier in Ramallah on August 6, 2005. Banksy has made a name for himself with provocative images stencilled around the streets of London. On his recent trip to the Palestinian territories he has created nine of his images on Israel’s highly controversial West Bank barrier.  (http://metro.co.uk/2012/05/16/pictures-best-of-banksy-graffiti-3036124/#jp-carousel-3036138)

We recently discussed the idea that everything is a remix. This reminds me of the core of my own research regarding mimesis (a term I learned from the work of Robert Cantwell). Cantwell, in cultural studies actually uses the term “ethnomimesis.” Ethno, he writes is obviously “groups and the forces that constitute them” (5). Mimesis is trifold: imitation, or the Aristotle’s form of learning, learning “that arises between, among, of and by people in the realm of social relations which includes most of what we call ‘culture,’ but especially that unconscious mimicry through which we take deposits of a particular influence, tradition, or culture to ourselves and by which others recognize them to us” (5). In addition to imitation and the summoning or production of formal, disciplinary expression, ethnomimesis is culture, “embedded in social practices, manifested in art, and reproduced by power” . . . belonging to our corporeal and spiritual endowment” as there is “no more complete communication between human beings than human corporeality itself, the human sensory and intellectual apparatus having evolved primarily to join us to tone another. It is in this capacity, certainly, that our survival as a species originally lay” (7).

I have also seen a variety of this type of mindset towards creative product in hip hop. Jay Z is one of the most obvious examples of this as seen in his song “Holy Grail” featuring Justin Timberlake (caution: language) with Kurt Cobain echoing in the background.
Sampling, remixing, borrowing and adding makes sense as learners. We take parts of what we know and expand, question, twist, and remake in order to do it all again. To contest this in the way we create our selves to the ways in which we define ourselves would be to suggest a type of isolation that would allow for a pure self, a pure knowledge. I don’t believe that exists. How we acknowledge and respect those that we borrow from insinuates the rigor of our work. For me, everything is a remix, but not everyone acknowledges their “samples.” This lack of acknowledgement doesn’t help future scholars, nor does it respect those who are being borrowed from.

As the artist Banksy (whose work is seen at the top of this post) reveals, often we have to work, remake, “remix,” and confuse what we know in order to reach for that which we can only imagine and critique that which is constituted as the norm.

Cantwell, Robert. Ethnomimesis: Folklife and the Representation of Culture. University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

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Mission Statements

When applying to schools as a high school Senior, I do not remember reading any mission statements. The mission of the school was not as “of interest” to me as the schools courses, opportunities, and environment. As an instructor and graduate student hopefully applying to jobs in higher education in the near future, mission statements have taken a very important role in my understanding of different institutions. With both public and private institutions competing for students and funding in every way, the mission of the school is central to setting the school apart and giving it a clear direction. As a faculty member it is one’s responsibility to teach and learn in accordance with those missions. I am finding that as an educator I am passionate not only about the region but about what some have coined, “transformative pedagogy.” As I looked up missions to schools that have had a huge impact on my personal life or my research I considered how I would be able to uphold their various missions.

First, I looked at the mission of my (very unconventional) undergraduate institution. I am sure most people have a strong connection to their undergraduate schools… but I can honestly say that I believe in the pedagogical approaches of Goddard and that their culture of “rigorous inquiry, collaboration, and lifelong learning” was not simple a mission. It was something that students were expected to continue after graduation.

The Mission of Goddard College
To advance cultures of rigorous inquiry, collaboration, and lifelong learning, where individuals take imaginative and responsible action in the world.
Educational Philosophy, Values, and History
Students at Goddard work with faculty to direct their studies according to their personal and professional interests, goals, gifts, and desires. Students develop the capacity to understand their lives in an ever-changing social context, and thereby to take meaningful action in the world. They are encouraged to question received knowledge and the status quo and to create new understandings of the world and of human experience. As a collaborative interdependent learning community, we respect, include and appreciate differing perspectives. We challenge ourselves and each other to embrace uncertainty, experiment, and imagine unexpected outcomes. Recognizing our interconnectedness with others and with the earth, we hold our scholarship and our actions to the highest standards of integrity, authenticity, and compassion.
We recognize that teaching and learning are fully realized when they include a wide range of people, cultures, experiences, abilities and fields of knowledge. Understanding that access to resources and social and political power are not equally distributed, we offer the means to explore and articulate a wide range of personal and cultural understandings of well-being and justice, and to take action to create a more just world. In addition to keeping our education affordable, we create academic and campus environments that all Goddard community members can use. We also recognize the increasing impact of human activity on our planet’s limited resources. In our educational and institutional practices, we are committed to thoughtful and sustainable action that increases individual and social capacity for environmental stewardship and an improved future.
Goddard College has embodied this educational philosophy and these values for nearly 150 years. Initially chartered as a Universalist seminary in 1863, Green Mountain Central Institute, later renamed Goddard Seminary, exemplified the inclusive, socially engaged values of its community. Goddard College’s founder, Royce “Tim” Pitkin, was a graduate of Goddard Seminary and a student of John Dewey. Alarmed by the rise of fascism in Europe, Pitkin founded Goddard College in 1938 to unite the liberal values of the Seminary with Dewey’s belief that interactive, self-directed education could help build civil, democratic societies. An experimenting college, Goddard has continually offered new educational models in response to societal needs. It was one of the first colleges to include adult learning in its charter, the first to develop a low-residency model for higher education, and the first to offer residential programs for single parents receiving public assistance. The College continues to grow and change along with its students, who come to Goddard to transform themselves, their communities, and their world.

Secondly, I looked at the mission of the regional institution, Berea College. Berea’s mission is as follows:

Berea College, founded by ardent abolitionists and radical reformers, continues today as an educational institution still firmly rooted in its historic purpose “to promote the cause of Christ.” Adherence to the College’s scriptural foundation, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” shapes the College’s culture and programs so that students and staff alike can work toward both personal goals and a vision of a world shaped by Christian values, such as the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice. This environment frees persons to be active learners, workers, and servers as members of the academic community and as citizens of the world. The Berea experience nurtures intellectual, physical, aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual potentials and with those the power to make meaningful commitments and translate them into action.
To achieve this purpose, Berea College commits itself
• To provide an educational opportunity primarily for students from Appalachia, black and white, who have great promise and limited economic resources.
• To provide an education of high quality with a liberal arts foundation and outlook.
• To stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions and to emphasize the Christian ethic and the motive of service to others.
• To provide for all students through the labor program experiences for learning and serving in community, and to demonstrate that labor, mental and manual, has dignity as well as utility.
• To assert the kinship of all people and to provide interracial education with a particular emphasis on understanding and equality among blacks and whites.
• To create a democratic community dedicated to education and equality for women and men.
• To maintain a residential campus and to encourage in all members of the community a way of life characterized by plain living, pride in labor well done, zest for learning, high personal standards, and concern for the welfare of others.
• To serve the Appalachian region primarily through education but also by other appropriate services.
Originally adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1969; this revised statement adopted by the Board of Trustees of Berea College, Berea, Kentucky
April 24, 1993

The objectives found in Berea’s bullet point list is crucial and I was glad they were included. Mission’s must be obtainable with objectives that students and faculty can clearly obtain. As I continue to pursue a future career in higher education crafting my own mission and working to maintain a balance between institutional expectations and my own convictions.

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The Beauty of Interaction: Reflections on Brenda Laurel’s Work

Identify an example of human-computer interaction (from today) that has some/ most/ all of the six elements.
This week’s readings prompted me to do some additional digging. I vaguely remember “Rocket” and was struck by the last sentence from Brenda Laurel’s work, “The Six Elements and Causal Relationships Among Them.”. Laurel writes, “If we aim to design human-computer activities that are –dare we say—beautiful, this criterion must be used in deciding, for instance, what a person should be required to do , or what a computer-based agent should be represented as doing, in the course of action” (571). I wanted to know more about what Laurel means by “beautiful” when I found her Ted Talk and products to be more about subjective understandings of “just” environments and structures.

Watching Laurel’s Ted Talk (above) which features images of young female gamers bedrooms reminded me of a “event” that has made its way on my Facebook feed a few times this week and is in line with not only my “nugget” but the gendered components of Laurel’s work—a My Little Pony story. My friends in Kentucky homeschool their three daughters and the work their oldest daughter is producing and sharing publicly came to mind throughout the readings. I was ask to view and “like” the video, in order to boost their daughter’s views.
Games and gaming provoke memories of being at a babysitter’s house and watching my brother and another young boy playing Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genius. (Or was it the Atari?). Either way, I tried once, and it was quickly taken out of my hands. I seemed to be always already horrible at knowing when to make the character jump and when to run. However, if I had had film equipment… I may have been interested in creating a world with My Little Ponies—which also serves as my “nugget.”

(Side note: MLP videos are a “thing”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZVyI72ubGs
Films, particularly self-directed and edited films, allow for action, character, thought, language, melody, and spectacle. This is a powerful tool for social justice as seen in Appalshop’s program, the Appalachian Media Institute.

(All about AMI: http://www.appalshop.org/ami/about/ )
This type of beauty, is more a kin to what I believe Laurel was aiming for in her closing statement, and the types of causal relations that I work towards in my use of new media.

Recent Films from AMI:

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